by Jo Barnes –
“Grandma, look at all these people. They all have different things on the go; they all have different stories.”
Everyone has a story to share, a life moment or experience that’s important to them. Megan Hetherington, who said these words while waiting with her grandmother, really captures the human stories being told every day in the airport. Sometimes these are stories tinged with sadness.
For Geri Hetherington, whose husband has passed away, the impending arrival of her son fills her with joy and anticipation. He’s flying in from Oregon.
“He’s a professor at the University of Oregon. It’s nice that’s he’s coming,” she shares. “He’s a big help when it comes to taking care of things.”
A little while later her son arrives through the gate and smiles break out all around. It’s another family connection, and once again the hugs tell it all.
Reuniting with a loved one when there’s been loss is a poignant coming together. It’s often succinct without words and needs neither fanfare nor fervour.
“He’ll be very tired,” says Heather Turner while waiting for her husband George who has been away at a funeral. George is flying in from Fort Nelson, in northeastern B.C., a long way from here. While it’s a much shorter trip than driving the 17 hours or so, it’s still been a long day. The couple’s reunion is a connection of understanding, support and love. An embrace says it all.
Arrivals can prompt a big wave or boisterous conversation, but sometimes it’s just a quiet connection.
Travellers coming through the gates represent different ages and stages of life. Some are little and bounce down the hallway with their older counterparts holding their hands. Some are much older and less mobile.
“I’m just waiting for my 96-year-old mom who’s on her way back from Las Vegas with her girlfriend,” says Bob Greenway who sits patiently in the “Arrivals” rotunda, keeping an eye on the flight information display screen.
Apparently Marian, his mom, has made the trip many times. It’s clear from Bob that she’s young at heart and that 96 is only a number.
“She gets assistance,” he shares, “But she’ll bounce out of that wheelchair like she was shot out of a cannon and then pick up her luggage on her way out of here. She’s the Eveready Bunny.”
For most folks, the process of travelling is tiring, so the thought of a 96-year-old with this level of energy definitely piques interest.
Exclaims Bob: “I like to think this good gene pool will be passed down!”
Soon his mom comes wheeling through the gate, a white tam atop her head and a wide smile across her face. Her friend is there too and the energetic chat begins. Las Vegas adventures behind her, and her son at her side, it’s time to retrieve the luggage and head home. Somehow you just know that plans for the next Las Vegas excursion will come up in conversation on that
car ride home!
Sometimes arrival gate reunions involve shouts and laughter that reverberate and instantly energize the atmosphere in the terminal. An individual waiting at the gate recognizes a face and then, suddenly, they are overjoyed with the sight of several familiar faces.
It is early evening and only a few travellers have come through the gate. Then a woman sees who she’s waiting for and soon the excitement is palpable as they exchange greetings and hugs.
“It’s great! I haven’t seen him in years! He used to live with us four years ago and now he’s come back to see us again,” says Anouk Roorda, who’s thrilled to have a former exchange student return to the Island.
She’s gesturing to Yun Chan, a young Asian fellow who stands with his mother, Yet Chan and brother, Fai Chan.
“We’re from Hong Kong. My mother doesn’t speak English,” says Yun, who is beaming from ear to ear.
While they’ve left home many miles behind them, it quickly becomes clear they’re now embraced by another family into their home-away-from-home.
Equally elated to be there are two other passengers who join the group. A young woman pats the shoulder of the young man next to her.
“We’re getting married soon,” says Djoeke Roorda. “I’m Anouk’s sister and we’re here visiting too.”
Her fiancé, Chris Driedger, smiles and nods at the announcement. It’s a sea of smiles.
The arrival gate is a setting where distances between continents and cultures can vanish when friends and loved ones are once again within one’s reach.
photos by www.nuttycake.com